Janet Gaynor’s New England Pumpkin Pie

Janet Gaynor was an actress of many talents who successfully made the transition from performing as a silent film actress to having her career progress into the Sound Era. In addition to being the first actress to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, she was also the youngest to hold the award for many years. Moreover, she won her Oscar for not one but three performances at once–something that the Academy would limit for future winners. Her performances in 7th Heaven (1927), Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), and Street Angel (1928) are quite moving to this day.

It is her performance in A Star is Born (1937), for which she was Oscar-nominated, that has taken on an interesting life of its own. While she was the first to carry out the lead role in the film, the story itself has been explored in three more remakes–each being realized in another time period and with a different popular star in the role.

In November 2020, I was delighted to be invited to appear on an episode of Hollywood Kitchen, hosted by film historian and Hollywood Forever tour guide Karie Bible. Bible’s series takes on the fun challenge of recreating the recipes of Hollywood stars while also discussing their lives, accomplishments, and legacies. In this episode, Bible and I took on baking Janet Gaynor’s New England Pumpkin Pie. The recipe is as follows:

The recipe itself was an ideal one to explore with Thanksgiving approaching, yielding two pies in total. If you do not anticipate feeding a large crowd, you can always pass a pie on to a friend, neighbor, or whomever else you would like to surprise!

As is the case for many of these older recipes, cooking temperatures and times required more care than usual. Should you wish to try out the recipe, we would advise cooking at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then reducing the heat to 375 degrees for roughly 45 minutes to an hour. To test out if your pie is finished baking, you should be able to stick a butter knife in the middle of it and it should come out relatively clean.

This was what my final product looked like:

Enjoy the episode of Hollywood Kitchen here:

The Q&A portion of the episode is available here. Hollywood Kitchen episodes typically air on Facebook Live through Bible’s Facebook page on Sundays at 1pm PST. Episodes are also uploaded to her YouTube channel.

I hope that you enjoy Hollywood Kitchen and get an opportunity to bake with Bible and the stars!

About Annette Bochenek

Dr. Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is an avid scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for TCM Backlot, she also writes for Classic Movie Hub, Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine.
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2 Responses to Janet Gaynor’s New England Pumpkin Pie

  1. Robin R. says:

    Hello Annette,
    Thank you for sharing the recipe. You did not share how you liked the pie. It looks much darker than typical pumpkin pies. I am very curious how it tasted. It looks great though.
    Robin Raef

    • Oooh, good call! I really liked it!! I think it’s the molasses that is what gives it that dark color as well as a nice depth of flavor. It’s not super, super sweet like the usual pumpkin pie, but it’s sort of a warmer/earthier sweetness. Worth trying out!

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